I feel a certain kinship with today's Raising Readers guest. Ana is a mom of four boys who loves to read. Sound familiar? (wink wink) I found her blog several years ago and felt that instant connection that comes from similar interests and experiences. Her boys are a little bit older than mine, and I love her posts about what they're reading (she breaks it down into the 4-6 and 8-12 year range) because I always come away with new ideas for my own kids. I also enjoy the things she shares about the books she's reading herself, personality types (we're both introverts), parenting, and cooking.
In this post, she gives a number of easy-to-implement, but instantly rewarding, tips for raising readers. We follow pretty much all of these in our home in one form or another, so I can vouch for them! Please share your own tips in the comments!
By reading a book, we learn compassion and empathy by walking
alongside a character with a completely different worldview and life
experience than our own. We can relive history, or explore fantasy
worlds that exist only in the imagination. Reading engages
our creativity and imparts wisdom. It connects people across time and
space. It allows us to vicariously experience things we would never
otherwise be able to.
I've always been a bookworm, so it makes me happy and proud that
today my boys are all strong readers. However, they weren't all born
loving to read. Anyone, child or adult, can develop a love of reading.
Reading is something I've spent time nurturing
and reinforcing in my children, because I feel it's important. Here
are my secrets to raising kids who love to read:
Start early, if you can
Two of my four boys started
life out as preemies in the NICU. The doctors and nurses encouraged us
to read to them, so we sat next to their crib, making our way through
piles of children's books. Babies love the
sound of your voice, and the earlier you can start reading to them, the
better. However, I freely admit that this strategy was much more
difficult to implement with my last baby. We logged a lot of reading
time in the quiet NICU, but once he came home, one-on-one
time was scarce, as I also had a houseful of older brothers to contend
Use technology to include reading in more active parts of their day
often play audio books when the boys are busy with Legos, trains, cars,
art projects or play dough. (This helps the overall noise level of our
house as well, which helps
keep me sane). I fight my type A personality's tendency to push pause
if one of them leaves the room, or to meticulously note the exact second
where we left off at our previous listening session. I think they
absorb a lot while the audio book plays, even
if it doesn't have their undivided attention.
We also use audio books on car trips of 45 minutes or longer. It
makes the time pass so much faster, and is great for books that are
slightly above their reading level.
My oldest son really enjoys listening to books on playaway devices,
which he checks out from our library. If you're not familiar with them,
a playaway device is about the size of a deck of cards. They're
battery operated, and you listen to them with ear
buds. They're so small and light, you can take them about anywhere.
Don't overwhelm kids with books too far above their reading level
have learned to relax and adjust my standards a lot over the course of
my parenting journey. I read Farmer Boy to my oldest son when he was
three years old, and I expected
him to sit quietly and listen attentively for long periods of time. I
had this idyllic image of him sitting for hours on end, enraptured with
the story, and I was disappointed when that didn't happen.
As a bookworm parent, I knew the world was filled with great books,
and I just couldn't wait to introduce the boys to my favorites! So I
jumped the gun a little. Many classic books have early reader abridged
versions for children, and even picture book
adaptations for toddlers. These are wonderful ways to introduce
characters and story lines to children, and as they grow, they can
revisit these familiar friends in more advanced and original editions.
Let them read what they want to read
of the most important lessons I've learned when it comes to books and
kids is that reading is reading is reading. Often what I want my boys
to read doesn't line up with what they're interested
One of my middle sons didn't begin life as an enthusiastic reader.
In my struggle and frustration, I searched for anything he would read,
and I struck gold with Star Wars. In my desperation, I brought home
bags of Star Wars books home from the library,
and they ended up converting him into an eager reader. He now reads
well above his grade level in school and reads a (mostly) wide variety
I often remind myself that I loved Baby Sitter's Club books as a
young teen. Even if your children NEVER read the classic literature you
want them to, reading books improves the mind. Period. (Although on
the flip side, I also believe in gently encouraging
your children to stretch their comfort zone in the reading material
Reward reading and encourage growth in reading selections
This summer, I came up with
my own reading program, which we'll do in addition to our library's
summer reading program. My program gives more points for reading books
they've never read before, and less points for books about video games.
There are also bonus points available for
types of books I would like them to read. They're still free to choose
what they want, but hopefully the incentive will influence their book
We let our boys check out anything (appropriate) they want from the
library. I also check out things I hope they'll read, and leave the
books around the house in plain sight. It doesn't always work, but it
often does, and I don't make a big deal out of it
if they don't want to read my choices. I just keep requesting more.
Visit your local library regularly, and for more than just the books
the boys were little, we were regulars at our library's story time.
We're really blessed to have a great library system that has lots of
quality children's programs
and events. Just making the library a familiar, happy place with good
memories in it, lays the groundwork for the habit of reading.
Libraries are a goldmine of resources for all kinds of interesting
learning experiences for children and adults. Our library has classes
on making artisan ice cream, growing berries, reading clubs for children
and adults, concerts put on by local musicians,
and much more.
Limit screen time
Outside of school, our boys get
30 minutes of screen time of their choosing, for either TV or
games/other electronics. Some families probably think that's too harsh,
and some probably think it's too lenient, but it works well for our
family. As a result, our house watches little TV, which
means more time for reading.
If you watch a movie, make sure to read the book first
also try to always have my boys read the book first, before we watch
the movie version. Often, movies are somewhat empty shells of books, and
that's even when they're done well. Most
books contain way too many details to fit into a hour and a half time
frame, so lots of things get cut. By reading the book first, it forces
their imaginations to do all the work.
Reading has brought so much enjoyment to my own life, I naturally
wanted to share that with my children. By instilling the love of
reading in a child, you broaden the horizons of their world. For a
little while, they can see life through the eyes of a
King or Queen, an astronaut, a Roman soldier, a pioneer, an alien or a
dog. Summer is a great time to strengthen your child's love of reading,
no matter where they're starting from, so visit your library and help
them pick out books they're interested in,
and read together.
Ana lives in an old farmhouse, where she wrangles a pack of boys.
When she's not refereeing light saber battles or watching backyard
baseball games, she loves to read, garden, craft and cook from scratch.
She blogs about it all at
Lessons From Yesterday.